As all the other sunset photographers were packing up for the night, I was just getting started. This is the scene last night, with the waxing Moon hanging over the moonscape of Dinosaur Provincial Park in southern Alberta.
I took this in deep twilight, when the sky is tinted with subtle colours complementing the earth tones of the landscape below.
Dinosaur Park is the world’s best repository of late Cretaceous fossils, being unearthed as the terrain made of ancient volcanic ash erodes away with every rainstorm. Though the formations date from the Cretaceous some 70 million years ago when this area of Alberta was a bayou-like swamp, the badlands landscape we see today was created at the end of the last ice age when glacial floods poured over the landscape, carving the channels occupied by rivers today, like the Red Deer River that flows through Dinosaur Park.
It’s a favourite spot of mine, just an hour east of where I live, to shoot sunsets and moonrises, and twilight landscapes like this one.
— Alan, August 7, 2011 / Image © 2011 Alan Dyer
Here’s my time-lapse sequence of the hoodoos at Writing-on-Stone Park lighting up as the Moon rises and the Milky Way sets.
The sky starts off dark but lights up as the waning Moon, off frame behind the camera, rises and lights up the foreground and sky. The sequence ends as the sky brightens with the onset of dawn.
Waning moons are great nights for this type of shooting as the changing lighting produces dramatic effects as the landscape lights up at moonrise. The problem is, the Moon doesn’t rise till very late, making for a long night of shooting.
I assembled this sequence from 290 frames, each a 60-second exposure, taken at 1-second intervals over about 4 hours. The camera was the Canon 7D and the lens the 10-22mm Canon EF-S zoom at 10mm. I also shot a matching sequence simultaneously with the 8mm fish-eye and Canon 5D MkII camera, for an all-sky sequence for planetarium use.
— Alan, July 30, 2011 / Movie © 2011 Alan Dyer
Standing among these “hoodoo” rock formations at night with moonlight and starlight for illumination was a magical moment. This is a scene at Writing-on-Stone Provincial Park in southern Alberta, that I took last Saturday night, July 23, 2001 at 3 a.m.
It shows the summer Milky Way arching over the sandstone formations, with the rocks lit by the light of the rising waning Moon in the east.
Writing-on-Stone is a sacred site for First Nations people, a place to connect to the spirit world through dreamquests. No one lived here — it was a place haunted by the spirits — people only visited at special times. The rocks were also used to record visions and historic events, in the form of carved petroglyphs that are among the best preserved and most extensive of any archaeological sites in North America. By day or by night, Writing-on-Stone is an inspiring location, carved in the rocks on the banks of the Milk River (see the previous blogs for some panoramic sunset views of the area).
This is one frame of about 300 taken as part of a time-lapse movie, and is a 60-second exposure with the Canon 7D and 10-22mm lens.
— Alan, July 30, 2011 / Image © 2011 Alan Dyer
This is one of the great places for evoking the wide open spaces of the high plains. Here we are looking south over the Milk River and the rock formations of Writing-on-Stone Provincial Park in Alberta to the peaks of the Sweetgrass Hills in Montana. The buildings at right are the modern reconstructions of the late 1800’s North West Mounted Police outpost that guarded Canada from the illegals from the U.S. (!) coming up Police Coulee smuggling whiskey from Montana into Canada.
The time is just after sunset, as the last light of the Sun still illuminates the clouds. This is the magic hour for photography, and for taking in the solitude of the “Great Lone Land” as author William Francis Butler described it in his book of that title in 1872.
As Butler wrote, “No ocean of water in the world can vie with its gorgeous sunsets; no solitude can equal the loneliness of a night-shadowed prairie…”
— Alan, July 27, 2011 / Image © 2011 Alan Dyer